I never thought I’d see the day I’d write about Ayia Napa! Nor can I believe I’ve actually been to the place! To be honest I’d forgotten that it was even in Cyprus. In 2009, when my pride and joy headed there on his Leaving Cert holiday, I blocked it out, ignored any mention of the place in the media, and prayed he’d return in one piece! I got very little info when he did return – but that’s ok – what happens in Ayia Napa stays in Ayia Napa – especially when you’re 18 years old!
So you can imagine his reaction when I mentioned we were including it in plans for our trip last April. He honestly couldn’t understand why we’d go. In his ‘defense’, his experience seems to have been limited to the bars, clubs and fast food joints – I’m not sure if they even made it to the beach! But, having spotted it on the map of Cyprus, I read up a bit about it and it seemed to be a lovely spot – away from the party strip of course.
The monastery, that shares the town centre with some 80 bars and clubs, is testament to a rather different past. Indeed, the name Aiya Napa is derived from that same monastery – ‘Ayia’ meaning ‘holy’ in Greek while ‘Napa‘ means ‘wooded valley‘ or ‘dell‘, referring to the dense forest that once covered the area. Built by the Venetians around 1500AD, the monastery todays houses a museum.
The town presents as a typical resort – squares and fountains battling with souvenir shops and large restaurants catering for the masses…
Of course, this being Cyprus, it’s worth your while sticking your head inside every church you come across. This is Agios Georgios, a lovely picturesque chapel close to the harbour.
The traditional fishing boats in the harbour now share the space with pleasure craft of every type.
White sand and clear water! If you love your beach then you’re in the right place! How many resorts can boast 14 Blue Flags!! With some 27 beaches, ranging from the party vibes of award-winning, 500m long, Nissi Beach to gorgeous coves like Konnos Bay, there’s something (even space!!) for everyone!
The beaches in Cyprus are run by local authorities. They are all free but of course you will have to pay for your sun lounger and umbrella – typically €2.50 each per day.
The town might not be to everyone’s taste but there’s no disputing the surrounding landscape – the coastline is stunning! Anyone into walking, cycling or just looking for another swimming spot, heads off towards Cape Greco, a headland some 10km from the resort. You’ll have to allow plenty of time, because the photo opportunities are endless! The natural rock formations are impressive to say the least and I know I keep going on about the water in Cyprus but just look at that colour! The more adventurous among you might join in the cliff jumping or sea cave exploring but I for one was happy enough to stick to the walking trails!
The biggest surprise for me was the Ayia Napa Sculpture Park. Tempted to give it a miss – expecting a rather grandiose named setting for a few measly installations – I was astonished to discover over 20,000sq m of rocky hillside displaying more than 200 pieces of art.
Since 2014, over 130 artists from around the world have participated in the annual Sculpture Symposium. They gather each winter and spring and create their artwork on site using Cypriot limestone, metal, ceramic or brass. Each artist is offered free accommodation and full board for 3 weeks as well as materials and a gratuity of €1,000.
There is no airport in Ayia Napa. The nearest international airport is in Larnaca, 57kms away.
There is a bus service along the main road, running every 20 minutes or so but rentals are very popular, be it bike, motorcycle, ATV or car.
When to go?
Well – that depends doesn’t it! If you want to party, then its the summer months. July and August are extremely hot – the beaches are jammed and that party vibe takes hold of the town. We were there at the end of April- missing the Easter vacationers and avoiding the summer rush so unable to comment on the town in its full glory! There were no signs of hens and stags but, to be honest, the craic only starts after midnight anyway so they could have been readying themselves for partying as we retired for the night!! The weather might still be a bit unpredictable in April but we were lucky – the days were lovely and perfect for sunbathing and walking. Restaurants were open for business after the winter hibernation but weren’t too busy. There were no traffic jams and we could safely cross the road without fear of collision with an ATV or scooter! ( OH dear!!! Am I REALLY this old!!!)
Where we stayed
While we wanted a resort hotel with pool/ beach facility, this wasn’t our ‘End Of Trip’ nice few last days of indulgence. We settled for the 4* Okeanos Beach Boutique Hotel based on location – in town, close to beach and with parking facilities. For 3 nights totalling €391, I assumed the price was due to it’s central position. It was only when checking in and asked to stretch out our arms for wristbands, that we realised (although a bell did faintly ring in the back of my mind) we’d opted for the all inclusive package when making the booking! As I recall, the all inclusive package worked out at something like €30 per person per night on top the the B and B option. That made good sense for lunch, dinner and all drinks. It meant of course, that in true all-inclusive style, we didn’t sample any of the restaurants and bars in town but that was ok – we’d plenty of variety elsewhere during our 2 week vacation.
Great location beside beach and marina.
There’s a poolside menu available for those who miss lunch.
Within walking distance of dozens of bars and restaurants.
Zero atmosphere in bar/food area – But to qualify…..it was off season to be fair and most residents hadn’t opted for the AI package and so ate and drank in town.
Would I stay there again?
There’s probably better value to be had in town but the location is great for the beach and town centre while still being far enough away from the party strip and night time revelry. The food was unremarkable ( I’m writing this 6 months later and honestly can’t remember the buffet!!) but if you get a good offer then it means not queuing for restaurants in town.
So I’d definitely consider it if visiting in high season – if I ever return in low season I’ll probably look around for better value but would be very happy to stay here – and go AI – if I get a good price……
There are plenty to choose from – offering swimming and snorkelling opportunities and great views of the coastline
SO much history – both ancient and modern…. The old walled city of Famagusta is beautiful in itself and then there is the nearby ancient site of Salamis and Varosha ghost town – unmissable……
More than just a city – the last divided capital on the planet Definitely worth a visit….
Having visited Cyprus twice in the past year, I think I’ve finally (although never say never!!) exhausted the subject! If you’ve read any of my blogs on Cyprus, you will realise that there is SO much more to the island than sun and beach (although that’s brilliant too!!). We saw a lot over 24 nights (10+14) but also allowed for a lot of downtime so a two week road trip would comfortably cover most of the island.
Anyone interested in Ancient History, Modern European History, Castles and Walls, Outdoor Pursuits ( walking, cycling, watersports…) and Food will love it here. And hey – if sun and beach is your thing – well – you’ll be happy here too!!!